We use cookies to provide you with a better experience. If you continue to use this site, we'll assume you're happy with this. Alternatively, click here to find out how to manage these cookies

hide cookie message
Office software Reviews
15,499 Reviews

Characters for Mac app review

£1.99 inc VAT

Manufacturer: Get Characters

Our Rating: We rate this 3.5 out of 5

The Mac app Characters makes it easy to type special characters and symbols. Read our Characters Mac app review to find out more.

There are plenty of characters and symbols your Mac can produce that you won’t find on your keyboard. Things such as ©, ¢, ™, and, yes, ?. OS X offers a couple tools for finding these characters: The Keyboard Viewer shows you a graphical representation of your keyboard; press various combinations of modifier keys to see the characters and symbols you can type. (For example, it shows that you can type ™ by pressing Option+2.) The Character Viewer shows you all the symbols, special characters, and non-Roman characters you can use, separated into categories. You can browse characters or use the search box to find a particular item; double-clicking a character pastes it into the front-most text field. See all software reviews.

But if you frequently type special characters, a more-convenient option is Characters (Mac App Store link). Whenever you need to “type” a special character, you just click Characters’s systemwide menu-bar icon or—my preferred method—press a keyboard shortcut. See all Mac app reviews.

The popover that appears shows a scrolling list of available special characters, divided into sections: Most Used (the ones you access most frequently, for quick access), Arrows, Block Elements, Bullets, Currencies, Cyrillic, Digits, Dingbats, Emoji, Geometric Shapes, Greek, Hebrew, Latin, Latin Extended-A, Letter-Like, Math, Parentheses, Pictograms, Punctuation, and Symbols. You can disable, in Characters’s preferences, any categories you don’t use. However, you can’t reorder the sections—I’d like to put Punctuation near the top of the list and Emoji at the bottom. I also wish you could collapse less-frequently used sections without disabling them completely, so you didn’t have to scroll through them all the time. Thankfully, you can make the popover longer to show more characters at once.

If you know the name of the character you’re looking for, just start typing it in the search field; Characters filters the popover’s contents to show just those characters that match your search. For example, typing trade displays ™ and ®. (Tip: You can type the name of a category to show just that category.) One thing that would make this feature a bit more useful is if Character viewer would show the name of a character when you hover the pointer over it—knowing a character’s name would make for easier searching the next time you need that character.

Once you’ve found your character, you simply click it—or, if you’re a keyboard jockey, use the arrow keys to select the character and then press Return—to copy it to the Clipboard for pasting elsewhere. By default, Characters displays a Notification Center alert confirming the copy. (You can disable this feature in the app’s preferences, but doing so didn’t actually stop the notifications for me, which I’m assuming is a bug.) I wish Characters could automatically paste the selected character into the frontmost text field, instead of requiring you to manually paste, but that’s a minor complaint.

Characters also offers an option that will be very appealing to coders: Flip the big switch at the bottom of the popover from Symbol to Code, and Characters will instead copy the selected character’s code representation—as either Python source or the HTML entity’s name, decimal representation, or hex representation—to the Clipboard. Which means you never need to remember if an opening smart quote is  or .

I can’t be sure—I didn’t count them—but it appears that Character Viewer offers a wider range of characters, especially in the Pictograph category. But many of the extras are obscure things you aren’t likely to use regularly unless you have very specific needs. I especially like that I can use Characters without ever lifting my fingers off the keyboard. For me, Characters is an easy, and visually attractive, solution that’s faster than accessing and using Character Viewer.

Characters Expert Verdict »
Size: 1.5MB
Requirements: OS X 10.7 or later
  • Overall: We give this item 7 of 10 overall

I can’t be sure—I didn’t count them—but it appears that Character Viewer offers a wider range of characters, especially in the Pictograph category. But many of the extras are obscure things you aren’t likely to use regularly unless you have very specific needs. I especially like that I can use Characters without ever lifting my fingers off the keyboard. For me, Characters is an easy, and visually attractive, solution that’s faster than accessing and using Character Viewer.

There are currently no price comparisons for this product.
  • GarageBand for iPhone review

    GarageBand for iPhone

    Available on the iPhone and iPod touch; an already great app made even better with universal support and new features.

  • SlovoEd Russian-English Dictionary Deluxe for iPhone review

    SlovoEd Russian-English Dictionary Deluxe for iPhone

    SlovoEd foreign dictionaries are now available for the iPhone, adding an invaluable resource to the world's favourite smartphone

  • Amazon Kindle Fire review

    Amazon Kindle Fire

    The Amazon Kindle Fire may appeal to those who buy e-books, videos, and music at Amazon. But it's no iPad killer. Read our in-depth Amazon Kindle Fire review.

  • CustomMenu Mac app review

    CustomMenu Mac app

    CustomMenu provides quick access to your favorite apps, files, and folders. Read our CustomMenu Mac app review to find out more.

  • Photosynth for iPhone and iPad review

    Photosynth for iPhone and iPad

    Photosynth for iPhone is an interactive panorama capture and stitching tool that facilitates easy sharing. Read our review to find out more.


IDG UK Sites

Top 5 Android tips and tricks for smartphones and tablets

IDG UK Sites

How to join Apple's OS X Beta Seed Program: Get OS X Yosemite on your Mac before public release

IDG UK Sites

Why the BBC iPlayer outage was caused by a DDoS attack: Topsy and Tim isn't *that* popular

IDG UK Sites

BBC using Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games to trial 4K/UHD, pan-around video, augmented video and...